Distance, or What I Did to Stay Sane During the 2020 Pandemic, Reviewed

by Joe Thompson
10th October, 2020
4 minutes

Distance by John Cooper

A character comedian improv and training workshop wizard known to some as Danny Pensive? If you don’t already know John Cooper, take a glimpse into his mind with his pandemic produced comic strip collection Distance or “What I did to stay sane during the 2020 pandemic”.

When the comedy clubs closed and this worldwide pandemic hit in march John Cooper, who isn’t the serial killer who appeared on bullseye or the car manufacturer by the way despite what search engines throw at you, hasn’t led a hermit's life. No this John Cooper professional funnyman master of improv and training workshop extraordinaire produced a lovely slice of personnel musings in comic strips outlining life in Britain in these strange times. Distance or “What I did to stay sane during the 2020 pandemic” is a diary-like comic strip collection of fifty of John's observations and thoughts on this crazy world since it all went a bit wibbly-wobbly. This world of isolation with social distancing yet open season shopping is very confusing at best. In fact, confusion seems like currency these days where the ones we expect to give clear answers seem just as lost if not more so than the rest of us. I honestly believe the only reason anything is still functioning is down to those with the compassion and empathy to see this virus as a threat to those we care about. Diligence seems to be a vital commodity. However, when we do venture out it can sometimes feel like too many people think they are untouchable. Which can add to the isolation and frustration of it all. With what seems like an inevitable second lockdown right around the corner, a sense of connection, solidarity, inspiration and some proper chuckles are a necessity. Luckily for us all John Cooper dishes up a wonderful example of relatable, honest, funny comfort.

So, let’s start with the art. John Cooper has compiled a very charming collection of comic strips with art that feels very wholesome. It’s art that looks simple but only because it's so good. Look it’s not mind-blowing, but it needn’t be. It’s art for the format. I think the emphasis is really in the dialogue, we’re not talking crude or stick figures, no John is clearly an accomplished artist. The art just holds a simplistic quality. I feel like this art is best described as clean and clear. Everything looks right and I really felt like I was seeing the world through John's eyes, a real person's eyes, which I’m not quite sure how adds to the comforting qualities of the art portrayed here. It’s really fun for the eyes, pleasant to behold and accomplished to the point of engrossing. You probably won’t be pouring over every panel, but there's enough there to keep you immersed and switch on to John's thoughts. A lovely package to present considered musings from the mind of John Cooper.

Distance preview page

Ok, well that felt short but I don’t think the art really defines this collection. There is nothing bad about the art, it just isn’t that remarkable for any other reason than it works and it’s nice to look at. Good comic book art. Anyway, this is normally where I ramble about the story, but this isn’t a story. Distance really is a collection. A collection of thoughts and feelings spanning most of this crazy year so far. It’s also a diary, the diary of a man who can articulate the day to day experience we are all dealing with. Distances dialogue sits somewhere between self-help, shouting at the void and confessional honesty with occasional guru levels of wisdom and advice. There's a hodgepodge of thoughts, observations, poetry and songs, even a COVID rap. John smashes the 4th wall a few times to reach out to us readers, just to reassure and check-in. It’s conversational. I feel like this is what this collection is all about, a conversational comfort blanket of reassurance and solidarity. There’s plenty of humour here also but this all together seems to be an exercise in sharing, finding the positive and moving forwards. It’s empowering, affirming fuel for strange times.

You might think that a comic so on the nose or that a diary of these times would hit too close to home. Maybe even serve as just a reminder of the world we’re all trying not to overthink but you’d be wrong. The sense of togetherness on offer here, the relatable observations, the beautiful honesty on display, the rallying call of positivity and of course the chuckles make it well worth the read.a wonderful addition to any comic fans shelf or digital cupboard. Even if comics aren't normally your thing, if you're looking to perk yourself up for a few minutes or document these times then you will fully enjoy John Cooper's delightful collection.

Right, well John got this lovely fully funded and then some on Kickstarter so big congrats but more importantly for anyone that’s worried they missed out. Have no fear as the Kickstarter page will give you a link to order your copy. Or alternatively, get over to www.johncooperdesign.co.uk/distance and grab this heartwarming, confessional pick and mix of solidarity and positive determination.

Review; 4/5

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